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Drake to screen alumna’s documentary on eco-disaster

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Tar Creek, the subject of a documentary by Tanya Beer, has turned orange due to the presence of sulfuric acid in its water.

graduate Tanya Beer and her husband, Matthew Myers, have created a documentary
film exploring what they call “the worst environmental disaster you’ve
never heard of.”

a 1996 English, rhetoric and communications major, and Myers will screen their feature-length
documentary, “Tar Creek,” at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 1, in Bulldog
Theater, Olmsted Center, 2875 University Ave. A discussion will follow the

Creek” outlines the devastating effects of an abandoned lead and zinc mine
on a 40-mile swath of northeast Oklahoma. The contaminated Tar Creek area is
rife with lead and cadmium. Sulfuric acid turns the water bright orange. Studies
have linked the contamination to health problems in residents.

documentary is about how the town got that way,” Beer said. “It looks
at different parts of the environmental damage, the politics of how you get
people out of that situation and how you treat them fairly and with dignity in
the process.”

should come away with a greater understanding of environmental justice and the
need to make right the wrongs against certain communities due to industrial
pollution, said Nancy Reincke, associate professor of English and director of
the women’s studies program at Drake.

may also want to search the Web for Superfund sites in Polk County or their
hometown to find out what we all have in common with the people of the Tar
Creek area in Oklahoma,” said Reincke, who helped to coordinate the
screening at Drake. “Although manufacturing jobs have migrated overseas,
the job of cleaning up after many industries is still with us. “

federal government launched a major environmental project, commonly known as
Superfund, to clean up the area in 1980, but the effort fell short. Today, an
area that was once home to thousands of people has a population of roughly 6.

disaster has been the subject of media attention, including a 2004 article in
Time Magazine,
in which the author called the situation “eco-assault on an
environmental scale.” A recent article in Wired Magazine described Tar Creek as “the most toxic city in America.” 

said that her husband, a writer who grew up near the Tar Creek area, decided
words failed to convey the gravity of the situation. He spent three months
capturing video interviews from people in the Tar Creek area, including members
of the Quapaw tribe whose reservation lies on contaminated grounds.

Myers taught himself to edit video and developed a draft of the film, which is
set to appear in 52 cities courtesy of a nonprofit group called Filmsprout.

who see the film always ask what they can do to help,” Beer said.
“There isn’t much to be done in Tar Creek, now. The reason my husband made
this film is so more people would pay attention to the relationship between
industry and the environment.”

produced the film, largely through donations from friends and family. Prior to
her work on the film she taught in Mozambique and worked for the Colorado state
government on program evaluation. She now works for a think tank in Washington,
D.C., that advises philanthropists on how to maximize the impact of their
donations on the social problems they hope to solve.

experience at Drake taught to think critically about the world that I live in
and to engage with it at all times,” Beer said. “I think that’s a
pretty great thing to take away from an education.”